A successful rebrand is a tricky thing. Do it well, and you set your brand up for a successful future. Do it poorly, and you become a punchline on the Internet (RIP to the infamous Gap logo that lasted exactly a week).
While many people find a branding mishap to be entertaining, we know what a tragedy it is. The cost of a rebrand is hefty in time, money, and energy. When it doesn’t work, it’s everyone’s loss.
Unfortunately, it’s easy for these types of projects to go off the rails. No matter how prepared you think you are, there are plenty of pitfalls, both small and big, that can sabotage your rebrand—without you even realizing it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a global brand or a small startup; everyone is vulnerable to rookie mistakes. If you want to succeed in your rebrand (and save your sanity along the way), it’s important to know what to avoid.
Luckily, we’ve seen enough (and maybe made a mistake or two) to know what will derail you. So, to make sure you don’t run into the same trouble, we’ve broken down the ten most common pitfalls that can wreak havoc on your rebrand. Take a look before you dive in.
1) Doing a Rebrand Because You Feel Like It
There’s no expiration date on your brand, but sometimes brands feel like they need a change for arbitrary reasons: it’s been too long, their competitor just rebranded, the new CEO doesn’t like the logo, etc. But a rebrand is a huge endeavor that requires serious thought before you begin.
There certainly are valid reasons to pursue one. Some of those reasons:
- You look like everybody else in your industry.
- You’re going after a new audience.
- Your brand has expanded.
- Your brand is painfully outdated.
- Your branding doesn’t reflect your values/identity.
- You’ve dealt with bad press.
- You’ve merged or acquired.
If you think you’re ready, have a serious conversation before you give it a green light. During that conversation you should be able to clearly justify why you’re doing a rebrand and how it relates to your brand strategy.
2) Not Knowing Who You Are
When a brand doesn’t know their core identity (aka their purpose, vision, mission, and values), it’s hard to complete a successful rebrand. That’s because your core influences every part of your brand, from the products you design to the way you talk to customers. If you don’t know who you are or why you exist, how can you shape a brand strategy? How can you communicate it through your branding? It’s nearly impossible.
Before you start a rebrand, take time to identify and articulate your core, including:
- Purpose: Why do you exist?
- Vision: What future do you want to help create?
- Mission: How do you create that future?
- Values: Who are you? How do you work?
Doing this will help everyone on your rebrand team ensure their work aligns to your core identity.
3) Only Changing Your Logo
A logo change is usually the one thing that people are most excited about, as it’s often the big “reveal” for a rebrand. But this is one of the biggest misconceptions about branding. Your brand is not just your logo or visual identity. It is your strategy, your messaging, and more.
If you’re just focused on your logo, you’re missing the point of a rebrand: to reshape your entire brand identity.
Before you get into your logo design, make sure you have a fully fleshed out brand strategy (see our step-by-step guide to complete yours), and when you are ready to deal with your logo, try our simple process to design a logo you love.
4) Not Doing Enough Research
Before you pull the trigger on a rebrand, it’s important to know:
- How your brand is currently perceived (internally and externally)
- How your competitors are perceived
To find out about your own brand perception, survey your customers and employees. (Note: Include both happy and unhappy customers in this survey.)
To explore your competitors, do a competitive analysis to assess how they approach all aspects of their branding, from logo design and tagline to brand voice and messaging. (You can also use our free template, which includes useful questions to ask.)
5) Writing a Weak Creative Brief
A rebrand is like any creative project. While it sounds fun to just “go nuts,” you need some parameters and guidelines. That’s what a strong creative brief provides. Unfortunately, we’ve worked with brands that either gave us practically nothing or drowned us in information.
To strike a balance, we recommend conducting a brand audit survey, which includes all the relevant info you’d need to fill out your creative brief. This will help everyone from project managers to designers stay on the same page. Once you have that info, you can write your creative brief.
6) Not Getting Approval
There’s nothing that will drive your team crazier (and waste time and resources) than an inefficient process. Unless your team loves doing work over at the last minute, one of the biggest things that will help your rebrand go smoothly is getting proper approval at each stage of the process.
Remember that there are many elements of a rebrand, each of which need sign-off from relevant stakeholders. As you craft your timeline, make sure to build in ample time to get those approvals.
7) Copying Trends
Your brand wants to be a leader in its industry, not a follower. So why copy their design trends? At best, it looks reductive. At worst, it seems desperate.
For example, as type designer James Edmonson of Oh No Type Co points out, the tech industry has become particularly homogeneous.
EVERYBODY FALL IN LINE! pic.twitter.com/B9JU5nvpMu
— OH no Type Co (@OHnoTypeCo) February 13, 2018
That doesn’t mean you can’t evolve and elevate your aesthetic, but remember that chasing after trends can result in a boring and indistinct brand.
8) Not Future-Proofing Your Identity
You aren’t just rebranding for today; you’re rebranding to help your brand grow into the future. As such, you need to build an identity, particularly a visual identity, that is flexible.
Consider the different types of content you will need to create. Think about how your logo will look in 10 years, or how technology and platforms will evolve. If you can think critically and anticipate these needs, you will set yourself up for success.
9) Not Testing
No matter how beautiful your logo, if it doesn’t connect, it won’t help you achieve your brand goals. (Remember that after Tropicana’s 2009 rebrand, customers were so unimpressed that the brand’s sales fell 20%.)
That’s why testing is the key to finding out if your brand identity works. The most important questions to ask:
- Does your rebrand resonate with people?
- Does it accurately reflect who you are, what you’re about, and what you’re trying to achieve?
If you test it and there is a significant disconnect between what you’re trying to communicate and what people perceive, you have some more work to do.
10) Not Applying It Correctly
After putting so much work into a rebrand—the resources, the testing, the time—there’s nothing worse than letting it go to waste by not teaching people how to use it. (It’s basically tripping right before the finish line.)
To keep your team is on the same page, design a comprehensive brand style guide that includes clear directions and real-world examples. To start, learn how to create a brand style guide that’s easy to use.
How to Create a Stronger Brand Identity
Doing a proper rebrand takes a lot of deep thought and skill. But there are ways to make your team’s life easier with a few tips, tricks, and resources. If you’re ready to go full steam ahead with your rebrand, here are a few posts that might help your team:
- Find out how to do a rebrand with less stress.
- Bookmark these 75 helpful resources to build a great brand identity.
- Use this checklist to make sure you have everything you need in your visual identity.
- Get inspired by 15 brands with an awesome visual identity.
And if you need a little extra help, let’s hook up.